Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by HereComesTheSnow
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Before him, foreign men-at-arms, their armor sleek and unsegmented, as if skin. Their frames twisted, proportions exaggerated, each point of bone tipped witch swooping, doubtlessly sharp curves of alien crystal. Truly alien visages, staring at sometimes him, sometimes those below, judging all who stepped upon their hallowed ground, who dared fly within their sky. An invading host from a world beyond the light of their sun.

Perhaps it was a similar feeling to first seeing the great Khan's horde at your city's gate, or the men who rose from the foam of seas, axes in hand and woad paint upon their skin. Perhaps Bedwyr was less the one-armed knight that returned the sacred sword to the lake, and more the raider in service of he who slew the Picts to take the isle for his own, apocryphally or otherwise. Whatever these massive, oversized yet underwrought things were thinking behind their dull emerald eyes and featureless masks... They looked upon the landing team as what they were.

<<Don’t start anything if you can help it but you are not, I repeat not, expected to let them take the first shot.>>

Konstantin Stojanović, the man of a hundred sorties upon Ganymede, breathed in deep as a very familiar swelling sensation rose from his chest, a rising lightness and tingling crack of electricity through his veins. He knew when he was being sized up. He had already done much the same since the time the plumes of dust and ancient soil had cleared. With respect, officer, the question was not of if.

Merlon, equipped with the new eyeball tracking package and machine-learning integration, watched the pilot's pupils dilate in anticipation, a primal focus directed upon two gleaming mockeries of the simian form, 500 meters below. That was a whole lot of metal cast without regard for the electromagnetic spectrum— nice and big radar signature. Easiest target it ever painted.

The awakened pair continued to swivel their "heads", impassively regarding the team. For a moment, one might have been forgiven for regarding the embattled pilot as paranoid, guilty of projection, far too bloodthirsty in his own right. And that may have perhaps been true, for that moment.

Then their gazes snapped to Gypsy Soul.

A rush flew through Konstantin, liquid lightning that rendered him pale as blood traveled to more important places than skin.

Mouths that could not be seen ripped open, a violent, discordant, and distinctly metallic trill piping into the man's ears even as it shook his cockpit. Like an engine shoved into a trash compacter, really. It set his ears, his skin, his mind on fire.

A gleam of fool's gold, twin points of infected sunlight coalesced before them, still focused squarely upon the fey mech.

The trigger was pulled.

<<Engaging Bandits.>>

And then there was thunder, meeting their beams of malignant ichor with the relentless fury of a storm. All four of the E-30s mounted upon the OF-02D's hull roared in percussive symphony, drowning out metallic screech with a cascade of eighty millimeter gunfire. At the same time, the steady mech-scale chug of the Super 22s heralded the sands below blossoming into a shower of flame and force, 105mm canisters delivering cones of explosive hail downrange.

Let it begin.
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Caasicam
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Volana watched, with growing apprehension, as the mass of sand and dust being kicked up by whatever was approaching rushed closer and closer to their location. Vaguely, she could comm traffic from the science team as they made their way back onto the landing craft, though their words weren't entirely registering at the moment. No, her focus was on the phenomenon ahead.

<<As of this second I am confirming a Case Siberia, and your RoE changes with it. Don’t start anything if you can help it but you are not, I repeat not, expected to let them take the first shot. If they look nasty you are cleared to engage.>>

Those last few words resonated as the COO's orders came over the comm. Giving voice to what they were probably all thinking at that moment. In terms of welcomes go, the billowing cloud of dust was-

At that the two forms burst to the surface, and froze in place. Volana felt her heart jump and her breath catch as the two gleaming alien forms caught the yellow-orange glow from the unfamiliar star above. They were massive, nearly reptilian in their basic forms. Sleek and seamless, though unmistakably metallic in construction. If such things were even constructed, their hunched posture and clawed limbs sowing doubt that these were machines like the one she had just unearthed.

Utterly alien.

The was a moment, the only motion visible was that of the pair of... entities scanning their surroundings with an unnerving precision. Volana didn't breath, scarcely blinking as she stared at the identical pair of towering things before her.

She watched with growing confusion as their search snapped upward, towards what Volana could only assume was one of the Orbitals currently patrolling the airspace above. What was-

A wave of sound hit her square in the chest, broadcasting over the Aurora's internal speakers as much as it was seeping into the cockpit itself. A high pitched, metallic tone that made her jaw ache. Her proximity to the two screaming alien contacts only intensifying the auditory assault. Through narrowed eyes Volana watched as a pair of brilliant golden beams of light lanced out from them, tracing a path that followed whatever had disturbed them in the sky.

Things happened quickly after that.

Volana dropped low as instinct overrode conscious thought, a wave of dust and sand rising up from the Aurora's armored feet as the Orbital mirrored the tensed crouch. She was almost entirely certain this counted as looking nasty as the COO had put it. That, and the fact that one of the pair had suddenly shot forward directly towards her, propelled by some unseen force and gaining ground at an alarming rate.

No time for thought.

As far as she knew the shuttle had yet to clear the AO, and the hostile contact charging towards her was on no uncertain terms not to get any closer. It made Volana's next course of action clear, as she pushed off the sandy ground to lunge forward to meet the gleaming alien form. Sparks whipped in an arc around the Cytherean Orbital as Volana ripped her blade from its sheathed position in a single motion that accompanied the Aurora's next bounding step.

<<Aurora, engaging!>>

Thirty meters.

Twenty...

The gap between them was closing faster than Volana truly felt prepared for, but that thing couldn't be allowed to get any closer. Even as its looming form grew even larger in her panoramic view.

And they met.

Gram's prismatic edge refracted a kaleidoscope of color that danced across the surface of her Orbital's armor as she pivoted hard into an arcing swing. The final step that the Aurora took throwing as much force behind the strike as Volana could leverage as if attempting to completely cleave the metallic alien in two.

Above the roar of automatic explosive weaponry rained down in waves, though the majority of her view was occupied by the bulk of the entity before her, so their target wasn't entirely visible.
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by eemmtt
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Zakharin looked over the strange new orbitals that have shot up from the dust cloud. The old marine gave the alien constructs a carefully look over. He spent a few moments analyzing the mechanoids. Making note to possible weak points in the armor in case they had to engage them. Thankfully there COO gave them full clearance to shoot back if there were engaged. The cyborg set about tasking his two gun drones to protect the Dr. Harding drop ship in till they left the zone. Then came there screeching penetrating the cockpit the cybernetics within his body seams to vibrate with the sound.

As soon as mechanoids took there shoot at Gypsy Soul Zakharin went into action. Years of experience made the action second nature. Snapping his rifle at the close mechanoids. The old marine let out a series of shot burst into the mechanoid in time with the roar of Bedwyr's cannons. Each of the burst was aimed at diffrenet part of the mechanoids seeking to hit a critical system or weak point of the alien constructed.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by ghastlyInc
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Halim


Halim resisted the urge to grip his ears as the sound hit him, the poorly sound proofed cockpit of his Casket shuddering unnervingly as the screeched rolled through him on its hateful trajectory. He felt something dribble down the sides of his face, warm and thick and causing a knot of vertigo to form in his stomach as a ringing began to drown out the noise.

He was grateful for it a moment later as the world (more specifically, the world directly surrounding one of the drones) exploded silently, signaling the true beginning of the battle. <<"Moving to assist Aurora!">> Halim screamed into the comms, voice cracking from its own volume as he attempted to hear himself over the ringing.

Halim couldn't hear the scream of his boosters as they roared to life, but he felt them. A violent and sudden lurch of motion that hurled (for it was too inelegant to be called flying by the standards of the more veteran pilots) in a quarter circle around the charging mechanoid a few meters away. The Casket skidded to a halt flanking the mechaniod, one leg creaking dangerously (not that he noticed) as its rotary canon spun to life, slamming 50mm rounds into its broad side without risking the chance of friendly fire.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Hawthorne
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The desert had come alive with the screams of the dead and forgotten, but instead of flesh, it was steel. The comms flared to life with activity. Any illusion that this was just another rock had quickly faded. The Pandora had just given them permission to engage, now that the prospects of a peaceful First Contact scenario had passed. It was time to fight.

And so they did.

<<Copy that, Pandora. Firing salvo.>>

Firing solutions popped up on the Orbital's HUD, allowing for a great degree of multi-tasking. The shoulder-mounted missile battery let loose a barrage of Akon-- long-range rockets that flew like the javelins of old. On impact, they left craters in the desert sand, turning the ground to glass. The Hephaestus Assault Gun in the Ajax's arms roared with fury as it spat out round after round of explosive ordnance. Holden was uncertain about whether or not the alien machines used similar alloys to the ones they use back home, but he was certain that it would punch straight through all the same.

As the Hypervelocity Driver charged, Castle surveyed the scene. The hostiles were focused on Gypsy Soul and Aurora. The Odysseus and the Casket were assisting with the defense on the ground, while the Bedwyr was providing air support. Although the shuttle was flying away and was largely ignored by the enemies, it still needed proper protection. The Casket would have been the ideal candidate in that regard, as it would fit its role, but with all hands full, the Ajax's pilot decided to take things into his own hands.

<<This is Castle Two-One to Explorer One. I'll cover your retreat as you go-- don't stay too long.>>

With that, nearly eighty metric tons of mass began maneuvering across the sand, making its way to intercept the shuttle's escape path. As one of the more armored Orbitals of the ground team, the Ajax was well-suited to the role of backline-defender. With its artillery, it could easily stay in the back, protect what was necessary, and still lay down suitable fire support, all from a distance. With all the other Orbitals providing him with more than adequate information to create firing solutions, there was no problem, for the most part.

Of course, an Orbital capable of flight would've been a better option to play babysitter, but you make do with what you have. As much as it pained him to say it, this was what he was good at. This battle was as transient as the shifting sands of the desert, and yet, Castle felt alive. There was no time to stop and smell the flowers, though.

It was time to get to work.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by ArmorPlated
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Adam Gilford


WARNING: Signal bypass detected in Comm array.
Combat Network Module Insecure: Comm Array Functions Terminated.
Internal Runtime Security:
cleared.
Switching to Semi-Autonomous Mode.
Verifying Communications Integrity...


The alien machines had woke up in a hurry, going from dormant to active aggression in a few minutes. Adam's mind was catching up with his body and the Starstrike. The pair of unknown machines had turned their eyes skyward and his Orbital had reported some kind of ECM attack, blocking out the entire comms suite. Even with his radio dead, he and his Orbital recognized beam weapons well enough to drop countermeasures and evade. Rocketing sideways, the Starstrike spun to minimize it's profile while dispersing nano-chaff in an attempt to disrupt or weaken the intensity of the beams. Thoughts continued catching up, and even without network access, his HUD had the Explorer One marked as a defensive objective. Descending, Adam barked orders to the pilot-assist system and aimed for a trajectory perpendicular to the hostile's advance.

"Designate unknowns as hostile. Mark physical abnormalities on hostiles as Object." Text scrolled across every sub-screen as Adam locked his target and loosed a missile, guidance designating the intersection of alien armor and the crystal structure "Object" as it's target. The radio buzzed with life again as systems slowly cleared a security check. Slightly later than would have been appropriate, Adam calls over the radio. <<Starstrike, missile away!>> before banking to race towards the Shuttle.

<<This is Castle Two-One to Explorer One. I'll cover your retreat as you go-- don't stay too long.>>

<<I'll take Escort position if you can provide cover-fire, Castle. If even half of the spots is a hostile crawling out of the dirt, we're in hot water.>>

The Starstrike rapidly gained on the Ajax, thruster-wash kicking up a trail of dust. with a chime, it's Comm array came back online, reconnecting to the network once again. A stray thought formed at the back of Adam's mind, gone as quickly as it had arrived.

I dropped off the network pretty suddenly right before an attack... Here's hoping it didn't look like I died, or I'm going to have to apologize to Communications for the scare.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Plank Sinatra
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Their shrill, anguished yells reverberated through Gypsy Soul, from her armor to her very core, to the beating heart of the pilot within.

Not that her heart was beating very fast. For some reason, Gypsy felt unnaturally calm inside - like anticipation had been building in her chest, and she had now gone through the worst of whatever she had silently feared to face. Sure, she felt a few drops of sweat, licking down the inside of her face's cold, metallic surface. Her hands were certainly clenched. But that was pilot's instinct, her body reacting to imminent vaporization. Inside, she was poised. She wished the same could be said for her poor, screaming Orbital.

//Engage retreat! Y!Y!//

No.

//Preparing communications suite. Engage retreat! Y!Y!//

No.


...

//Communications suite offline. Diverting power to Samadhi. Samadhi functionality rating raised to 4.//


The cascade of beams that Gypsy faced down should have been beautiful, by rights. But they were no true gold; they lacked glitter, the power and allure that had drawn humanity to the metal since it formed its earliest notions of currency. These beams were diseased, ugly - not aurum, but jaundiced. Gypsy Soul raised its Looking Glass and blocked the beams contemptuously. She barely even felt any buck from the impact. That was good; she hadn't been certain that the Chiron Works defensive mechanisms would be as effective against enemies that could only be hypothesized about, but the ablative coating definitely seemed to do its work.

Bedwyr and Odysseus were providing support, launching extensive salvos at the alien from behind. She appreciated the effort, and maybe they would even get lucky and hit some weak point in the monster's spindly lower half. But she doubted they were so lucky - and the alien might even have hated Gypsy enough to survive no matter what they managed to shoot. The Orbital sensed her intent.

//Alert. Alert. Melee range imminent.//


<<Hey, thanks. You boys are real gentlemen. We should get drinks.>>

//Error. Do not do this.//


<<Deploying Samadhi. Gypsy Soul, engaging.>>

To the creature, the sight of the Orbital, scarlet saber in hand as it approached, must have felt like pulling away an old, delicate scab - and digging fingers into the fresh wound underneath.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Plank Sinatra
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[afterpost with mass]
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by The World
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What in the blue hell? came as a thought when the two... lifeforms? Things, appeared. Then came the scream. It was unlike anything Stel had ever heard before, and it terrified her. Her previous thoughts of the treasure trove of knowledge that these entities could provide were wiped out and replaced by thoughts on how to best survive. She wasn't confident enough in her piloting to rush forward into close range where her Orbital would thrive, instead being paralyzed with fear while all the other pilots took action. By the time she recovered, Gypsy Soul was already about to crash into one of the entities with blade drawn.

As her fight or flight instincts took hold, she had just enough rational thought to throw up the METATRON's Particle Energy Shields and open comms, though only silence came through them from her to the others. She found herself unable to speak and shaking in place at the speed of these metallic enemies. A small part of her that was still functioning as normal was telling her that, if they were made of any known metal, all she had to do was get close enough to fire off her Orbital's main attraction, but that voice was drowned out. She instead stood still with her shields up, trying to recover from the shock that these monsters inflicted on her.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by FlappyTheSpybot
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Fox


"Shit."

Fox's casual profanity went effectively unnoticed against the metallic screeching of the unknown hostiles. As the smaller exoframe seemed to not have drawn any attention yet, Fox took the opportunity to fully engage all of his stealth systems, the small suit momentarily dropping off allied sensors as it reconnected to their shared battlenet via tightbeam laser. With the Outrider's systems automatically highlighting the unknowns as assumed hostiles, Fox simply confirmed the assessment and let the computer handle the rest.

As the Her-Comm Suite's EW system kicked into high-gear searching for a counter to the unwelcome noise, the young man took moment to more carefully analyze their alien attackers. Frowning at the lack of any clear joints or other separations in their armor, Fox let out a small sigh of relief as EW system's AI produced a countermeasure; the incessant mechanical chattering finally coming to a halt.

<<Aurora, Gypsy; See if you can't get your dance partners to lift their arms. I'd like a clean shot at the underside of them. Outrider over.>>

The young man said, disseminating the emergency countermeasure to the rest of the squad through their shared battlenet.
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Krayzikk
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GM IC:

Volana struck one of the first blows for humanity, swinging her blade in a broad, powerful arc to bite deeply into metallic skin. It was timed perfectly, exploiting the mechanoid’s unrelenting charge to land a devastating blow before it could muster a defense. It shone in the alien sun, gleaming as it struck true and stopped almost immediately. Its edge bit, notching the machine’s side at the waist with a groove that could not be ignored. But still it stopped. It rocked from the impact, swaying to the right even as its clawed feet dug into the sandy soil again. Far from the decisive strike that she had sought, even if she had not dared hope for it, Volana found herself well within the reach of her foe’s oversized arms. And it was aware.

A massive hand closed around the Aurora’s shoulder, easily encircling it with its fingers with a grip as inexorable as gravity. Green optics bored into the Cytherean Orbital, its attention completely locked on the intruder within its grasp. And slowly it began to squeeze with oppressive force, armor creaking ominously under its fingers. A menacing, subsonic vibration reverberated through the contact into Volana’s own cockpit. Its other hand raised, the beast shifting its weight in preparation when a volley of 50mm rounds slammed into its flank. The series of dents didn’t seem to do substantially more to damage it, but they proved more revealing; beneath their gleaming surface was a more matte, darker material. Its head whipped around at the new threat, perhaps reassessing while it continued to squeeze the Aurora’s shoulder. The same sickly golden light warmed the spines on its back, casting its surface in poisonous hues before a continuous, coherent beam lanced out tracking and attempting to interdict the Casket.

The other Bandit was having a rougher time. Without the prospect of a danger-close strike to worry about Kon had been free to unleash a firestorm, and the alien mechanoid was at its heart. The pellets didn’t seem to have much effect at first, but the thunderous hail raining down on it forced it to raise its right arm and hunker down, weathering the storm that was steadily abrading its finish. And then Zakarin and Holden’s fire joined the mix, hammering the hostil with sustained, armor piercing munitions. It rocked with the impacts, dents and better yet craters beginning to appear in its armor. But still it stood.

Starstrike’s missile struck, and the machine screeched again with a sound like an angry earthquake, tectonic plates grinding against each other with primal force. Their foe had taken their mettle, it seemed, and decided how to act. Starstrike had broken off to escort the shuttle, sparing it for the moment from the alien’s wrath; but when the spines on its back glowed the beam targeted its other aggressors. Kon was first. The beam shot through the plume of smoke and debris towards the source of its firestorm, then without waiting to assess swept down and out like an immense blade of energy, cutting through the space it expected Oydsseus to be and then lancing towards Ajax before ceasing.

Then it detected another comer, and its focus shifted in an instant.

It roared again, this time focusing its fury directly on the Gypsy Soul and swiping its raised claws at the charging Orbital.




Artemie was struck dumb, just for a moment, at what seemed to be the culmination of her life’s pursuit. The discovery of alien life.

And then it all went south.

”Starlight,” She hollered, hands flying across Voyager’s controls. ”Take control of the Aegis, you’re gonna be faster on the defense if they take a shot at us.”

”Arty, I’m not programmed for assistance in combat situ-”

”You’re programmed for the interception of obstacles to our flight plan. Well, one of those beams is definitely an obstacle so help me out.”

Silence reigned, as though the computer were thinking it over.

”Makes sense. G-Aegis nominal, and on standby. You could have said please.”

The Lunite snorted a little and put her foot down, rocketing the large Orbital towards the fray.

<<Aurora, I’ve got lock for a real big shock if you can break free. It’s gonna be real close if you can’t.>>




Far above the Pandora’s bridge crew worked their sensors, trying to localize the strange transmission around them and monitor the battle below. From the captain’s chair their CO drew a deep breath, and fixed a look on his executive.

“Bring us to full power on the reactors. And run a continuous plot on the hostiles. If it comes to it I want a solution for an orbital strike. Have the COO get another team launched, I want an escort ready when Explorer One breaks atmosphere.”

The vast ship, hanging stationary in its orbit and emitting minimal energy, suddenly bloomed on any sensor that cared to look as its reactor came online from standby. The interference on their comms reached a fever pitch, completely locking the system down with static, as a second team readied in the hangar.
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Caasicam
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Volana felt the impact of her strike even through the inertial gel that filled her cockpit, a sudden halt of momentum that threw her body to the side as the semisolid medium struggled to adjust in time to prevent it. Her head rung, palm burning from where the jolt had shot up from the controls in her grip, even through the glove. The Cytherean pilot had watched intently as her blade struck her intended target, a clean, nearly effortless strike that felt all to easy for the intimidating presence which the alien mechanoids displayed. That was, until the prismatic sword halted in it's travel into the gleaming metallic armor of the aggressor. The armor did not crack and fold like she expected it to, rather it divided almost like clay, simultaneously malleable and yet incredibly dense at the same time. The damage looked significant, though the small part of her mind that was able to think in the brief moment of calm that followed her getting tossed to the side desperately hoped that looks weren't deceiving in this case.

The moment didn't last.

A beat after the strike the alien entity had regained its footing, a massive clawed appendage enveloping the Aurora's shoulder moving faster than what such a large mechanoid should have been able to. Damage readouts flared before her augmented view from within the Aurora's cockpit, the rest of it completely filled by the green photoceptors that gazed with what could only be assumed to be malice into her. Almost immediately the alien's grip surpassed nominal operating pressures for her armor, which was no mean feat given that nominal was the overpressured surface of her home.

Volana could feel her hand shaking... though it might have been just the low reverberations that resonated through her body as soon as the mechanoid had made contact.

Fine, she wasn't moving.

The Cytherean pilot released Gram from the grasp of her entrapped limb as the alien's attention was momentarily drawn by the barrage of fire from Halim, the glimmering blade solidly stuck within the groove she had carved into the creature's flank. The same cold yellow glow Volana had seen before raced up its back, before lancing out towards what she could only assume was Halim's mech, just as she reached out with her other arm towards her blade's protruding hilt.

An arc of power shot from the Aurora to the weapon as soon as it returned to her grip, and the sword flared to life with a flash of brilliant violet energy, fingers of electricity dancing across the surface of the mechanoid and her own mech that quickly snapped into focus along the blade as the color coalesced into a sharp blue. With a wrenching motion Volana made to drag the now powered blade out from the wound she had caused, being none too careful about its path of travel further along the alien mechanoid's form.

Through the constant hum that now filled her head a familiar voice came over the comm, one that she identified as belonging to the now slightly less frozen Artimie.

<<Aurora, I've got lock for a real big shock if you can break free. It's gonna be real close if you can't.>>

Given her current situation there wasn't much Volana could do to visually identify what she could only assume was an approaching Starlight, though the battlenet's combat map gave her a pretty clear view of a blip rocketing towards her position.

Breaking free is exactly what Volana wished she could do, but the steadily rising pressure warning coming from her mech's trapped shoulder wasn't looking promising in that regard.

Volana cursed, and then activated her own comm in reply.

<<Going to have to be real close, not moving!>> She hoped that her voice carried over the vibrations that filled her cockpit and rattled her skull.

Another surge of energy burst from the Aurora's Oberth reactor, routing outward and raising effective output to near maximum safe operational levels. Gram's energized edge dimmed slightly as power was redirected from the weapon in response to the command, and her visual interface shifted hues to indication the activation of the Aurora's defensive systems.

From within the grasp of the mechanoid the Aurora's sleek armored frame began to shimmer, the edges of the plates blurring as a thin film of air around them superheated. The shimmer turned into a glow that increased in brightness to form an irregular net of energy that wove its way outwards along the entire surface of her orbital, tightly hugging the sleek contours of it.

<<Go for it, danger close!>>
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by eemmtt
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Zakharin made sure to keep up the stream of fire on the bandit. The old cyborg closely examined the damage occurring on the bandit. He figured it was time to follow up on Starstrike’s missile with one of his own. The marine tasked the orbital's M-50 AT rockets to lock on to the bandit. It was at that moment when the alien unleashed a sweeping beam at the human orbitals. With honed reflexes he maneuvered his orbital to roll out of the beams way. He manage to avoid any serious damage with only one of Oydsseus shoulders being grazed. Once he recovered from the roll he made sure to to regain the target lock and fired a duo of AT missiles at the bandit.
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by HereComesTheSnow
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[WARNING: Excessive Energy Signature detected within Area of Operation. Evasive Maneuvers Advised.]

A modulated, almost lilting baritone, representative of his mighty chariot's onboard electronics suite, floated into his ears above the sound of the churning maelstrom of gunpowder. A flashing overlay of the designated target area, form of his prey long obscured by smoke, dust, and flame, snapped his eyes into razor focus. Automatically, the display switched to thermals, revealing an array of bright spines that eclipsed even his constant bombardment, white heat coalescing within the field of red into a single point. The analysts back on base would surely puzzle over the mechanisms involved for months as they pored over the footage.

Kon's reflexes and instinct, honed over a hundred sorties, far outpaced that type of careful consideration. He yanked hard on the controls, willing the skyward knight to move.

A line of ichor, sickened sunlight, burst from the cloud below, a lance intended for the heart of the storm. Its passage was heralded by a symphony, or rather cacophony of warning chimes as his HUD went an alarming, deadly crimson.

On his back, The Bedwyr's wings swept in, cutting away the drag he had loitered upon till now.

An instant between instants was all the time he had. Beneath his helmet, Konstantin felt the edges of his mouth pull back away from the mask of stone he always wore. A breath passed through bared teeth, uncertain if it would be the last the man took.

And a roar flooded the cockpit, as every Vernier aboard the white and red crusader blazed to life in an explosive concert of blue-white momentum. Kon's shoulder blades slammed back into the gel cushioning behind him, the violence of action pushing the G-count past 5 as twenty meters of metal swept through the sky. Dodging beam weaponry was hardly a mean feat back in the Solar System, and if he hadn't had that briefest of moments' prior warning...

"Not bad." he breathed to himself, fangs now plainly bared in a wolfish grin. Not intent on lingering again for risk of another potshot from the alien's beam weaponry, he maintained thrust as the orbital approached the speed of sound in a wide circle. Raising his left hand, he mentally noted it an act of wisdom that he had stopped shooting during his evasion— the barrel of his second Super-22 had been caught by the beam in his wake, and had melted into a disfigured, rapidly cooling mass of slag.

Clicking his tongue in dissatisfaction, he returned to comms.

<<This is Bedwyr. One of my guns is trashed, fire support capacity down to 70%.>>

Luckily the magazine had escaped the cooking plasma, or else he'd have a lot of explaining to do.

... That's an idea.

Returning the malformed derelict of a shotgun to its magnetic mount upon the Bedwyr's chassis, he pulled the drum, about halfway filled with canisters if his count was correct, free from the assembly as he observed the scene playing out far below. The alien mechanoid's armor had begun to shear and abrade beneath the sustained pounding he'd put it through, but the munitions had yet to truly crack the giant's gleaming hide. Like waves upon the coast, rather than a round through plating. In theory, he could have continued the cascade and worn it down— but theory tended to ignore when guns went "click" earlier than one would like.

He needed more punch. A thousand cuts of small explosions weren't quite doing the trick, but the larger, shaped penetrators fired by the twin Grecian heroes seemed to be faring somewhat better. That was the path to victory. Not a monsoon, but a singular bolt of lightning.

Drum of explosives in hand, so much like the ancient discus, the airborne Orbital swept into a tight arc downward as it bore into the six-o-clock position of the screeching metallic lifeform, now four clicks out. Locked in melee combat with Gypsy Soul, the red Orbital seemed miniscule by comparison as the crimson glow of its Samadhi lashed out, met by talons of an unknown alloy. Good, distracted.

<<Ground team, be advised. I'm coming in for a low pass on the second bandit. ETA is 20 seconds.>>

[Data transfer requested by PANDORA: Begin Patching? Y/N]

[Y]

As Merlon began to cross-reference its plot of the AO with the flagship-class scanning arrays of Pandora high above, Konstantin's eyes bored into the spined back of their assailant, a high plume of dust in his wake as the Bedwyr tore through the air just 50 meters up at three quarter mach.
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Fox


As the AO exploded into the chaos of battle, Fox felt himself grinning behind his helmet. For the first time in years the young man was back on the battlefield; and in a weird, twisted sort of way it felt like coming home. It was time for him to earn his keep.

Briefly getting a look at the underside of one of the bogie's arms, Fox clicked his tongue in frustration. More of the same metallic skin; and no joints. "Alright, new plan..." He muttered to himself, looking for another potential weak point to target.

Ignoring the bandit currently under sustained fire, Fox turned his attention to the Alien machine locked in melee with Aurora. As the BTF pilot ripped into it's side, Fox noted both the damage inflicted and the opposition's method of return fire. "That should do nicely. Let's see how you handle this..." The young man once again murmured to himself, new targets identified.

Taking aim, Fox fired off four rounds; two into the exposed secondary layer, two into the base of the monster's spines. Covering the distance at supersonic speeds, the bolt thrower's saber darts would burrow several dozen centimeters into their target before detonating a shaped explosive charge to inflict as much internal damage as possible. At least, this is what they were designed to do.

Not waiting to see the results of his handiwork, Fox immediately pushed the Outrider into motion. Slipping over the ridge he'd fired from, Fox relocated a couple hundred meters to one side before cresting another dune and settling back into a firing position.
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Halim

<<"Negative damage.">> Halim said over comms, voice still loud as his ears continued to ring. A faint flash of worry rolled over his face as the mechanoid turned its gaze to him before light struck his eyes. Instinct drove him forward and downward, slamming on his Orbital's thrusters with all of his might. His Casket skipped along the ground (rather literally, he noted dully as the sound of grinding metal reached his pained ears) escaping certain death by what had to be millimeters at best. Halim didn't dare let off the gas, his Casket half flying half crashing as it raced to the one place its pilot thought safest from the beam. Which, was to say, as close to the mechanoid as possible.

Faintly he could hear chatter over the comms, the words distant and garbled as his head began to swim but coherent enough. Voyager was going to hit the big thing and the Aurora was too close. <<"Rodger. Esta-bluseling cower..">> Halim slurred as an explosion echoed behind his target, thankfully distracting him from the sudden dizziness he felt. Halim's hands wrenched his controls back, the Casket's thrusts suddenly jerking the Orbital upright violently from its tumble. The sudden G forces of a rapid deceleration shot through him and for a brief moment Halim could FEEL his innards shift as his Casket came to a screeching halt, kneeling at the Aurora's flank.

Halim's arm lanced forward, his absent and now scattered mind thankfully not needed for the next step. A thin half dome of prismatic light enveloping the two Orbitals as his shield emitter sprung to life, hopefully enough to protect the two (along with a few peices of their attack sadly) from the forth coming hammer blow.
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<<I'll take Escort position if you can provide cover-fire, Castle. If even half of the spots is a hostile crawling out of the dirt, we're in hot water.>>

<<Solid copy, Starstrike.>> He replied. <<Focusing on target.>>

The Ajax spun on its heels, turning away from its role as a defender to an attacker. It hammered the foreign machine with the wrath of the forge god, its body both the anvil and the metal to be shaped. The enemy Orbital could take remarkable amounts of punishment, shrugging off armor-piercing rounds like it was nothing. To put it simply, it was a tough nut to crack.

Thankfully, if the Ajax was proficient at anything, it would be busting this proverbial bunker.

Between the attacks from Ajax and Odysseus, the fire support from Bedwyr and Starstrike, and the attack from it only seemed like a matter of time until the Bandit would fall to the onslaught of attacks. Perhaps its armor plating was made of some kind of special alloy-- it would certainly be something worth investigating in the future. Holden quickly pushed these thoughts to the back of his head; there were more pressing matters to worry about.

Like the scything beam of light currently erupting from the spines on the Bandit's back.

It struck the Bedwyr first, before slicing towards the Odysseus. Thankfully, both of them managed to walk away with only minor damage. The Ajax, however, as slow as it was, had little hope of evading the beam, which grazed its arm and cut into its torso. With speed borne of experience, Holden willed his Orbital's left arm upwards. The Ancile Buckler's anti-beam coating helped deflect and refract the laser's energy output to nothingness.

"Fuck." Holden grunted as red lights flashed upon his HUD, and sirens blared in his ears. "Status report."

The onboard computer's speakers blared to life, reading the situational report that was displayed on the HUD.

STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY:

ADAMANTINE ARMOR PLATING: 81%
HULL PLATING: 96%
ANCILE BUCKLER: 72%

ALL SYSTEMS OPERATIONAL.

"Could be worse." Holden said to nobody in particular. The Ajax's Adamantine Armor Plating was not particularly well-suited to taking on energy weaponry, but it was still much better than relying on hull-plating alone. It certainly couldn't reliably take sustained fire from beam weapons though, and he knew it. As he pondered this, sonorous ping rang out within the cockpit, signaling that the Keraunos was ready to fire.

<<Ground team, be advised. I'm coming in for a low pass on the second bandit. ETA is 20 seconds.>>

<<Roger that, Bedwyr. I'll slow him down.>>

There was a burst of noise as the uranium slug was launched from its cradle, fueling the first step. The Hypervelocity Cannon's magnetic coils then flared to life, further propelling that projectile at breakneck speeds. The target? The Bandit's torso, striking center of mass, right where the Oberth Reactor would be. Castle doubted that it would be able to pierce through, considering the HAG was unable to cut it-- but the EMI field should throw the machine for a loop, as it crippled system after system.

Assuming, of course, it had no countermeasures in place for an event like this.
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She supposed she should feel endangered. On some level, she certainly was; Gypsy Soul was upset with her, judging by the amount of sirens going off as her Samadhi batted away the alien's claws once, then twice. Her parries felt effortless, an application of training she had done day in and day out in her past life on Mars. This was always a possibility, Gyps. You knew not to go in naïve. She could almost hear the voices of gleeful executives and scientists, and felt the same skepticism now that she'd felt then - a nagging concern, in her bones, that there was something malicious waiting in space. But she'd gone along for the ride this far.

She heard a new alarm blare in her cockpit, and a grin split the surface beneath her cool metal face.

"Sssstupid bug."

Danger close once. By now, she had been attempting to Gypsy Soul's high mobility Praxis Clock package proved worth the time and risk to implement, sweeping backwards and from the right as Odysseus fired its twin ATs at the creature's armor. They struck, just as Bedwyr's sustained volleys had, and though they didn't seem to do any better of a job at penetrating the alien's defenses, they certainly seemed to piss it off. Almost as much as Gypsy's continued survival did. Another alarm blared.

Danger close twice. Ajax was returning fire, answering the creature's spinal singes with a one-two punch that, if not another shellacking on an already thoroughly shellacked exoskeleton, would send it reeling with the pulse that followed the uranium slug. With no further volleys at risk of obliterating their local, nimble, otherworldly friendly Orbital Gypsy pressed the opportunity to engage.

<<Roger, Bedwyr. Something to keep me on my toes a little bit.>>


//Praxis Clock functionality rating reduced to 3. Samadhi functionality rating raised to 5.


It seemed that, now that she had fully committed to her plan of attack and decided to seize while the Bandit was vulnerable, Gypsy Soul had finally decided to commit to the bit, too.

//Stupid bug.//


No longer merely content to block blows, Gyps' Counterattack struck one talon, then the next, the smaller Orbital attempting to drive back the monster offended by its very existence. If the others could keep up with their engagement, she knew could make short work of the talons. Gyps found her heart thumping in her chest, felt her legs quiver with excitement and her teeth sink into her lip. She was really getting into this.

Gyps was feeling so good, she mused, that maybe she wouldn't even dodge in a few seconds.

//Prepare for evasive maneuvers.//


She would, of course.

...But maybe she wouldn't...
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<<Danger close confirmed. Contact in…>> Eyes flicked over the display Starlight had displayed as soon as she said the word contact, flashing a countdown timer in decreasing rapidly. <<Fifteen seconds.>>

“Sustained power to the Lance, 80% of nominal. Two second duration from mark.”
She continued, the parameters passed into the Voyager and parsed into real preparations by her diligent digital assistant. All aspects she could have handled manually, but the Voyager had been built to run without her input while she was asleep. A combat scenario was a different beast, but those same preparations were more than enough to run power allocation on voice command. She was thinking about technical details to avoid considering the implications of her situation, she knew. Avoiding the thought of firing her first shot in anger. Avoiding the consideration that two of her allies were going to be awful close when she did.

”Standing by G-Lancier, Arty.”

But there wasn’t any time for that.

The shoulder verniers fired as one, brutally slashing her pace and whipping her torso up to face Bandit One at a forty five degree angle half a second before the lower verniers kicked in to steady her position. At the moment the angle was right her finger slammed the trigger home and the computer fired exactly as programmed. Power gathered at the crystalline emitter on its chest and for a second it glowed like a red sun. A beam as wide as the Voyager’s torso issues forth making its frame thrum with sheer power, striking from above like an avenging angel into the Bandit’s head and beyond into the ground. It was obscured by light, light that sparked and crackled across the shields put forth by Aurora and the Casket to shield them from the elemental fury unleashed upon an alien foe. The air rippled and shimmered with heat, the sand below its form turned to glass. Elation overcame her concern for a moment, as the beam simply ceased, and-

Sickly gold struck, and she snapped the G-Aegis up barely in time. The light washed along its crimson surface, crackling violently and leeching color from the defense where it touched. Bandit One remained, worse for wear.... But angry. Much of its gleam had been scorched away, its head deformed, the spines upon its back glowing red-hot but the intelligence in its gleaming optics remained and it had already struck back. The G-Aegis defended against energy, but such a consistent attack took power to stop. If she couldn’t make it lighten up…

Fox, thankfully, solved that problem for her. His darts burrowed, more deeply than the bullets had, into the monster’s surface and when they detonated the beam stopped. One of its spines bent at an unnatural angle, the material at its base clearly compromised. Its tail lashed the sand in aggravation, the rumbling growing louder and more violent still. It lifted Aurora effortlessly and slammed the Orbital to the ground, releasing its grip but stomping on the shielded machine with a large, clawed foot. And it remained there, pinning Volana’s machine and trying to grind it into the crystallized soil beneath its feet. Its tail whipped around, seeking to wrap around the Casket’s leg where it would surely throw the other Orbital around with similar ease. As for Fox its remaining spine glowed and fired, lacerating the soil where he had been mere moments before.

Artemie flicked a glance over her power reserves, unhappy at the drain it had taken to block the shot. She’d have to be more conscientious of her power use. It didn’t look like her best gun had done as much damage as she wanted, either, and that was worrying. But she needed to help Volana get free if they were going to get anywhere.



Ah, hell.

<<Aurora, Casket, get ready. I think we gotta get this thing on the ground.>>


Voyager dropped like a stone, and then fired its thrusters again just barely off of the ground. From its right forearm the gatling deployed, and even as the Voyager’s powerful shoulders slammed into the creature’s midsection with as much force as she could manage she jammed the gun into its side and depressed the trigger. She hoped- she prayed- that the impact, and whatever force Aurora could add to it from below, could unbalance the beast. Maybe if they could get it on the ground they could overwhelm it.

Bandit Two was more frustrated, if it could feel such a thing. The comparatively diminutive Orbital still survived within its reach, stopping with speed and skills what it could never have stopped by force alone. The Bedwyr was beyond reach, and though the others were not beyond its reach they were clearly further from danger. It roared as bullets and rockets connected, bellowing its displeasure into the alien atmosphere, but when the Keraunos struck it truly faltered.

Less at the impact, though it wasn’t without effect. The slug pierced deeply into the region abraded by Bedwyr and Odysseus’ explosive fire, force driving the dense round through armor and into its target. For its penetration, however, nothing seemed to break; until the EMI hit as well. Bandit Two rocked with the impact like a reeling fighter, but it didn’t correct itself. No, it couldn’t; something in its eyes was amiss, and as its balance slipped past the point of no return it fell. It caught itself on a clawed hand, but sluggishly. It moved almost as though concussed though whatever was wrong was correctly itself. The spines on its back glowed again, this time targeting Ajax alone with a torrent of energy that did not cease its assault. Holden’s blow had made him a threat, a threat that the alien would not stop until it had removed. Not unless it was stopped before it could recover or before it succeeded.




Far above the AO another team sortied from the hangar. A unit of Hawks, called ‘Tiger’ by long tradition for any squadron consisting solely of the venerable X Corp Orbital, carried out a combat launch. Minimal spacing, rapid timing control; vastly more room for error, but fast enough to put six aircraft and their six artillery compatriots, secured to the Hawks by magnetic clamps, into space in just over two minutes. The Hawks and their passengers swarmed into space, four pairs to meet the Starstrike and its protectee as they cleared they atmosphere and two moving ahead of the Pandora to sweep space for the source of the unknown transmission.

“Sir!” One of the officers whirled, yanking a headset off of their ears with a wince just as his entire console disappeared into a rapidly changing array of symbols. The moment the reactors went to full power the comms array cut out entirely, filled with a piercing static that blocked any other signal from getting through. A second later the communications station became unresponsive, followed by the sensors, the tactical controls, and a myriad of other, more minor systems. Helm remained intact, weapons control remained intact, but the ship was deaf, blind, and mute.

“It’s…” The officer at the Electronic Warfare station began, and gathered her thoughts before continuing. “Something is writing to our computers at an incredible rate. Their processors are working flat out and still heating up. It’s coming in from the comm array and accessing our databanks directly, and that shouldn’t be possible. The systems aren’t networked any more than they have to be. It’s passing through all sorts of intermediate systems just to get there, sir.”

“We had multiple point sources appearing up ahead before our sensors cut out, the COO is directing Starstrike to join Tigers Five and Six ahead in determining what we’re dealing with. The short range transmitters down in the hangar are still working, but I don’t know how long we’re going to be out of commission, sir.”
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<<Good hit, good hit.>>. Castle spoke into the comms. It looked like the EMI field created by the Keraunos could really affect these Bandits' systems.

As the Bandit collapsed, the Hypervelocity Driver was already charging the next shot. Holden did not stop shelling away at the enemy Orbital with the HAG, nor did he cease bombardment with the Akon. With the enemy proverbially and literally being sprayed down with a torrent of ammunition, and with the Gypsy Soul and Bedwyr closing in, if all went well, this mechanical menace would be scrap metal in no time.

Of course, were it so easy to do so, this battle would have been decided long ago.

The Ajax's warning systems flared to life, the computer warning its pilot about a rise in enemy power systems-- the EMI field had scrambled it for a time, but now the Bandit was up again, and it was pissed. Holden thought about it for a moment; he could try using the Talaria Jump Jets to dodge the beams, but to do so effectively, he'd need maneuverability-- something the Ajax lacked. No, there was only one option available.

Holden quickly sprang into action, taking a low stance, with the Ajax's left side facing the Bandit. He raised the Grecian Hero's left arm, and let the Ancile Buckler take the forefront. By minimizing the Orbital's size profile, and facing the shield towards the source of the enemy attacks, the Ajax has a better chance of survival against a sustained barrage of fire.

That being said, this solution of hunkering down had its issues. The most pressing one was, of course, that the Ajax could not return fire effectively in a defensive posture like this. Instead, it focused everything on defense, even going so far as to powering down weapons and diverting energy to the Ancile Buckler. It would only help to a marginal extent, but he'd need everything he could.

The man finished his preparations not a moment too soon, as he was quickly assaulted by several lances of energy. The lasers that hit his shield bounced off and refracted into the air, but such a small shield was unable to block everything-- it was inevitable that a few would slip past his defense. The rays that did glance off his armor had savaged it, the prolonged contact with high energy veritably melting away at his armor plating. If this wasn't rectified soon, the Ajax would be history!

<<I've got its attention, but my armor's not going to hold for long. Take it out!>> Castle yelled into his comms as warning sirens blared all around him.

Holden grit his teeth. He only hoped he could hold out long enough for them to finish the thing off.
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